Category Archives: My Books

The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings, Climate Change, Voluntary Simplicity

The Buddha practiced Socially Engaged Buddhism giving dharma talks wherever he went in society.  His first dharma talk emphasized the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Way and the Engaged Nature of mindfulness practice.  He formulated the Five Wonderful Precepts for lay practitioners, which evolved into the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In the 4th Century AD in India, the Brahma-Net Sutra was recorded.  It was known as the “Moral Code of the Bodhisattvas.”  It was translated by the Indian monk, Kumarajiva, into Chinese during the 4th century AD and contained three groups of precepts:

  1. Do not what is evil (Do not create suffering)
  2. Do what is good (Do wholesome actions)
  3. Do good for others (Be of benefit to all sentient beings)

Contained within the Brahma-Net Sutra are the ten major precepts of wholesomeness and forty eight minor precepts.  This was practiced in China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea as an early expression of Socially Engaged Buddhism.

In 14th century Vietnam, the Bamboo Forest Master (formerly King Than Nhan Tong, 1258–1308), went from village to village teaching the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the Ten Wholesome Precepts derived from 4th century India, strongly influenced by the Brahma-Net sutra and the Buddha’s initial dharma talk. In the 20th century, Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam and extended to the West. Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first six members of the Tiep Hien Order in February 1966 during the Vietnam War.  The Fourteen Tiep Hien Precepts (The Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing) contain the Five Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts.  Thich Nhat Hanh brought them up to date to be in tune with our times, in step with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments yet resting on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.  “Tiep” – one meaning is to continue, as when we tie two strings together to make a longer and more durable string. “Hien” – means to realize from direct experience, to make it here and now, totally in the present. Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Lotus in a Sea of Fire and the fourteen ethical statements that he carefully sculpted, presented a revolutionary statement of Engaged Buddhism.

The World is Burning.

The Buddha taught: “The world is always burning, burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness; one should flee from such dangers as soon as possible.” The fires of greed, anger and foolishness refers to the three poisons said by Shakyamuni to lie at the root of samsara. He taught that one should “flee from such dangers.” Although this passage might be used to support a world-denying attitude toward life, it is important to note that what the Buddha taught was that it was the kleshas, the unskillful, unwise forms, feelings, mental formations, perceptions and consciousness that burned, and not the world itself. The Hopi people referred to this state of imbalance as Koyaanisqatsi. We are not the first people to experience this. The difference today is that without our commitment to wise intervention, we could be the last.

Question: Do the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of Thich Nhat Hanh provide an adequate response to Climate Change?                                   

The 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. The signatories returned to their respective countries to find the wherewithal to “Change Climate Change.” The latter is the logo of the Canadian government. What is missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect” – a notion well known in biology. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt and trigger further tipping points in deforestation, desertification and so on in a cascade that cannot be stopped. The reality is not the reversal or change of Climate Change, the question and strategy is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.

The obstacles preventing the general public taking wise action with regard to Climate Change are a mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and a sense of hopelessness. These apply to all forms of a burning world – war, poverty, resource inequality, ideological extremism, hatred and bigotry. “What on earth can I do to make a difference?” is a phrase muttered all over the world in countless languages. Followed by “So why should I do anything?” There is certainly global awareness, but also fear about our future place on Planet Earth. This is understandable. The overwhelming terror of Gaia crashing down on us is unbearable, as there is evidence that we may be a primary cause.

I wrote in 2008 in Failsafe: Saving the Earth from Ourselves that a critical mass of 2% will be satisfactory as a tipping point, the catalyst to get things moving in the right direction. But I underestimated the impact of the carbon fuel cabal, a complex web of powerful corporate and government interests. Not just in the energy industries of oil and gas, this carbon economy extends into the manufacturing and servicing sectors, supported in an insulated ecosystem by financial institutions that control the marketing and advertising sectors. This collective power, when extended into the media, has attempted to make science and ecology into public enemy number one. It is supported in the United States by strong and well-funded political action committees with immense resources. This powerful, intermeshed cabal can easily circumvent the Climate Change accords agreed to by the international community.  They have also tried to influence other public policy such as rights of women and children, clean air and water, the efficacy of education and even the wars that show no sign of abatement. People everywhere are aware – but feel helpless in the face of this power. So what are we to do?

In terms of action, we have data-based evidence (and the voice of the Buddha telling us) that we must cut back, simplify, make-do with less and implement a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity. Reduce meat consumption, walk or cycle more, drive less, create an organic garden, plant a tree – just do it! Reduce our ecological footprint by conserving energy with one eco-friendly act every day, then global consciousness as a collective human phenomenon will change. Different questions will be asked and different solutions found, as a new mind-set of shared consciousness emerges to make the necessary decisions for change.  Mass awakening, however, does not mean that everyone “wakes” up right away.

Here is my task and it draws on the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. The challenge is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness.  Take small steps at first, then larger ones.  The small steps are to realize that many cannot drop present lifestyles or make dramatic changes cold turkey. But we do not have to be caught by the fast pace of consumerist madness.  We just need to make essential changes in energy use, diet, language, media and outreach.  Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place.  It means being more aware of our consumerism, making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. Free up time – be television free for several evenings, write in a journal, meditate and sort the clutter of the mind. We support environmental causes with the excess clutter in the basement, always thinking about whether we really “need” to buy something more.  Enjoy being simple and living modestly by shifting our perceptions just a little bit.  See clearly that commercial meat farming is a larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and resource overuse than any other cause – not to mention the suffering of factory farmed beings. This catalogue of things we can do is not a big deal really – just look deeply into what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices, and change.  Then see whether the consequences are peace and happiness for YOU. The world will follow.

Where do we start? Of course we must think globally and be aware of the bigger picture and step beyond the smaller pictures of ourselves created from fear and disempowerment. Yet we can also act locally with great vigor in our families and communities. Our intentions then spread as ripples from a pebble dropped in still water. We cannot truly hold officials, politicians and corporate culture to account, until we have mindfully begun the small things that we can do. At the same time we can alert the political and corporate decision makers that we do mean business as voters and consumers deeply concerned about the planet and our location on it. This is very important.  Our leaders are a manifestation of our collective will, when the collective will changes, our leaders will surely act differently.

I write about this in my book New Planet, New World, which will be published in 2016. Intertwining plotlines arc into the epiphany of the final chapter, which muses about human survival anywhere. The inclusiveness of science combines with Tolstoy’s vision, Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical and not repeating the mistakes of the carbon cabal. The underlying message is from Tolstoy, the ‘Conscience of Humanity.’ He described humanity’s bottom line as the cultivation of love, the mainspring for authentic and responsible living to create enduring ethics that would thrive. In this sci-fi story the pioneers on the new planet decide to create communal villages and eco-towns based on self-sufficient neighborhoods of elegant architecture and easy access. It has a public transport system without personal vehicles, eco-towns engineered to be ecologically friendly and socially inclusive. Also neighborhoods full of community gardens and eco-landscapes with permaculture zones, with green tech industries a priority. They endorse a set of financial regulations crucial to the new venture of expanding communities. Education, medical care, music and recreation are a responsibility supported by the companies. No company is permitted to get too big and the emphasis throughout is on preserving ecology. Business operations plough thirty per cent of profits into a communal fund for the eco-communities in addition to taxes. The energy source is a lattice of sophisticated solar units – and one company furnishes this. Furthermore, any search for carbon based fuels is forbidden.

It is their sacred duty to create and foster a caring, sharing community and apply the same in equal measure to the environment they are located in. I also draw on Pope Francis and his powerful call in 2015 to protect Planet Earth. This is a moral and ethical imperative, for without it the pioneers would certainly die. Everyone is a good steward for this new planet – and see it as sacred and worthy of respect. Tolstoy framed his writings within a reference to Christianity, yet his views are best described as a humanist spirituality – without archaic church structures and without oppressive state militarism. His refreshing solution was to create the conditions for people to be authentic and responsible. This begins with a co-operative style of community that encourages personal example as the driving force. Combined with a strong work ethic to bring a sense of responsibility to the fore, the pioneers use their imagination to co-operate and invent ways to make things move smoothly. The drive is to create a tangible spirit of co-operation, the willingness to share and be supportive and intuit how to cross the bridges of misunderstanding.

In this 2016 sci-fi novel I am able to take liberties and choose mentors, yet my intention is to provide a scenario reflected in the real world today, for soon the uber-rich will only be able to live in heavily guarded compounds. The rich and wealthy will likely inhabit armed, gated communities – and they will all be targets for eco-militias and popular uprisings drawn from the impoverished masses – intent on revenge. (Shades of Stanley Kubrick’s The Clockwork Orange.) To avoid this likely outcome for all citizens it is wise to take the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings very, very seriously. They are the necessary prior training for the emergence of Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics. The trainings are sound as they address that toxic mixture of fear, despair, sheer laziness, disempowerment and sense of hopelessness that I wrote about at the beginning of this essay. The trainings were updated in 2012, yet attention to more skillful wording is necessary in a few of them and I would like to see more of a sense of urgency expressed. Nevertheless, the Fourteen Trainings infuse the direction and action of Pine Gate.

Building Epicenters at Pine Gate as a Revolutionary Act

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in Ottawa, Canada encourages Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life and creates epicenters to bring this about. Starting with the Earth – our organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and sangha members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. They once went into hilarious laughter when they saw that the plant I had carefully nurtured turned out to be a giant weed and not a tomato plant! We had great fun returning it to the compost bin. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs amidst the flowers that are gathered and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A simple underground economy arises from the sharing. A solar panel fuels the hot water system. Everything else is as eco-friendly as we can make it for our fifty year old bungalow with a meditation hall in the basement. This eco-effort became an example for other friends as they did the math on how much cash we were saving.

In December 2015 I spoke to the Pine Gate Community about the plight of the Syrian refugees as being very similar to the Christmas story. Joseph and Mary were a Middle East couple and had nothing but a cattle shed for their child to be born. With their mystic insight the three wise men could locate and honor them. The Syrian refugees and their families are in the same boat – they have nothing. I put it out that we all have the opportunity to join the three wise men as there are Middle East couples and children on the run that we could help. I tend to think that the Christmas story applies to everyone, not only to Christians. And so we became an epicenter for fund raising for Syrian families relocating in Ottawa. How? By becoming informed, by sharing our monetary resources through responsible relief organizations and even by opening our own homes. This was similar to our efforts to support Tibetan re-settlement in Ottawa over the past few years. The community also organized a fund raising concert to support the rebuilding of the Galai School in Liberia which had been destroyed by the civil war. Yet, perhaps the most significant epicenter is a deliberate focus to empower women.

I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. This is why I began my exploration of the Sedona region of Arizona with Oak Creek River – the feminine face of Water. This was one component of the Five Great Elements in Buddhist thought I was familiar with: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Consciousness. I understood the sequence as the correspondence of all things to each other driven by the feminine vessel of enlightenment.

This connection with the feminine was naturally carried into my peace activism. I have been musing about this, reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day, which is put on by Pine Gate. I realized fifteen years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace as the engaged arm of Pine Gate that I was making a conscious choice to focus my energy and work on the local, my home city of Ottawa.  Pine Gate’s focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and above all else – on the empowerment of women. I am astonished by the results – more true to say “blown away.” For at the local level there was continuity with great women who helped make things happen.  There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day.  It has all grown in ever increasing concentric circles. The foundation of mindfulness and the empowerment of women through the fifty organizations we partner with have taken root in our northern city. All use some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice – voluntary simplicity and community ethics at work.

Each year Friends for Peace presents Peace Awards to Canadian citizens who have devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice.  The majority of the Peace Award recipients are women. The funds raised from the day are used to issue Peace Grants to organizations, in Ottawa and internationally, and we make a point of honoring women who run organizations that make a significant difference. In particular we have supported youth organizations to burst on to the local scene guided by magnificent women – I refer to these particular friends as Canadian Kick-Ass Women! Founded in 2007, Orkidstra is led by Tina Fedeski. www.leadingnotefoundation.org. It gives children from under-served communities the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, play as an ensemble and sing in a choir. Three hundred and fifty children now arrive with thirty three different languages and cultures. This mosaic of diversity learns together and Orkidstra is creating good kids and splendid citizens for the future. Furthermore, they are building a quiet social revolution in city schools and neighborhoods. The Dandelion Dance Company is the creation of Hannah Beach. An Ottawa based youth dance company, which explores social issues through movement. Their repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passion of young women who range in age from ages thirteen to nineteen, and include children’s rights, hunger, authenticity, bullying, stereotypes and inclusiveness. This program has entered the curriculum of many Ontario schools. Both youth organizations perform regularly at the Friends for Peace Day. www.hannahbeach.com/dandelion

The drive behind Pine Gate Mindfulness Community is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa who make a difference for the betterment of society. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre of the mind/will/emotions that lead to action. That is how we get things done differently in our northern city with an evolving Manifesto to create a different course of action and living. We draw on the Fourteen to prepare the pathways and keep ourselves steady.

Acknowledgements

This essay benefited greatly from insights, prompts and corrections from two good friends. I offer a deep bow of gratitude to Maggie McLeod and Bob Allen.

 

Childhood Bedrooms

Extract from Chapter Nine of a forthcoming (2016) futuristic novel titled New Planet, New World, which provides a counterpoint to the demise of modern civilization. I chart a Beginning Anew for humanity, a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct society based on ecology, caring and sharing. This adventure is not without risk or cost, as power elites ignore their complicity in the destruction of life on Planet Earth.

Childhood Bedrooms

Igor asked her a surprising question, “When you were a child what was your bedroom like?” Catriona smiled as fond recollections arose in her mind. “I had the most marvelous bedroom. It was more of a music room than a bedroom, full of musical instruments.”

She giggled and clapped her hands, “I had all these stuffed animals and would place them next to instruments and move them around. My father was such a goof. He would knock on the door and ask if he was to be Elephant, Tinkerbelle or Bear and then come in and play their instruments.” Igor was rolling over with laughter. “My bedroom had a large bay window and my father would sit there with whatever stuffed animal I assigned to him. Often my mother would come in and conduct the entire ensemble.” Catriona’s face was lit up with the memories and she turned to him, “What about you Igor?”

Igor pondered whether to reveal too much, then decided to do so. “My bedroom as a child was my sanctuary. My parents were often under police scrutiny for their beliefs. To compensate they created a very safe haven for me.” He slowly gathered himself, “I see the corner where books, paintings and wooden stools are piled up in disarray. My bed had two levels, one for me to sleep upon and the other for my stuffed animals to talk to before sleeping. It was a comfortable bed with large pillows and green checkered blankets. I had a telescope next to the window and I would fly in my mind to galaxies with my favorite animals.” Then he paused, “Perhaps it was too much of a sanctuary, as I did not like to leave this house. I had to when my parents entered the Space Agency in Moscow. I did not want to leave my safe bedroom behind but my father was very smart. He cleared it out and painted it in colors I hated. I begged him and my mother to let me see it one last time.”

There was a tremor of emotion in Igor’s voice and Catriona stayed very still. “On that last visit, mother pointed to the empty window where my telescope once focused on the sky. I felt the loss, stripped down in an empty space once resonant with discovery. I felt my mother’s gentle hands on my shoulder and still remember her saying, “There is nothing to hold you back, Igor. Your dream is still inside. Now step into freedom.” She smiled as I looked for the telescope. Nothing was there. My treasures were boxed and sent on to Moscow. This was their way to move me on from fear rather than cling to childhood safety. My mother held my hand and stared at where the telescope was not.” Catriona reached over and gently held Igor’s hand, “And here you now are Igor.” He raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed her fingers.

Ian & mic snags (2)

Four Poems.

Four Poems: The Australia Times Interview with Ian Prattis

Short Bio

Dr. Ian Prattis is an award winning author of fourteen books. Recent awards include Gold for fiction at the 2015 Florida Book Festival, 2015 Quill Award from Focus on Women magazine and Silver for Environment from the 2014 Living Now Literary Awards. Julia Ann Charpentier says his: “admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity.” Of his Gold for Redemption Anita Rizvi calls it “a riveting novel chronicling one man’s journey through the stages of innocence, darkness, destruction and transformation.” She goes on to say, “What is so exquisite is the tenderness and honesty with which the author deals with the human condition . . . he refuses to ‘sanitize’ experience.” He depicts the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to Redemption. His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues.

Full Profile at http://www.ianprattis.com

Dancing Trees                                                               

Silver birches silhouette the sky

Gather in numbers,

Silently,

Elegantly, grace “en pointe.”

Sway and breathe

Bend and whisper

Leaves shimmer.

They dance to gathering wind.

Murmur Creation’s tones

In synchrony with stellar rhythms,

Their sound carries waves

Rolling into shoreline rocks.

Silver birches silhouette the sky

Silver beauties

dance for us.

Dancing trees

Dancing Trees

       Lament For a Mariner                                                        

The sea is very thin this day

that Archie Ruag has gone.

Master mariner, graceful navigator,

wise teacher of ocean mystery.

No more to grace the ocean’s ships

returned to whence he came.

My sons at eleven years and ten

children in men’s mourning

saw him laid to rest

in my place.

Storms and hail swept the cemetery

and their small frames

grew in maturing

of Archie’s dying.

And I sit here in Canada

writing, grieving,

Knowing the sea is very thin this day

that Archie Ruag has gone.

I saw him last, pale and weary

with calm before his death.

His spirit surrounded by antiseptic ward,

but not beleaguered.

He knows I was not equal

to his dying.

So he spoke gently to me

of ships

and men at sea.

And moorings

safe to guard our boats

from winter’s cruelty.

And so, in this way

did he gently rebuke

my lack of courage

in his dying.

So that I may have strength

in my own time

of death.

Yet I miss him.

An anchor gone from my seasons

of the sea.

The sea is very thin this day.

     Vietnam War Memorial                                                                   

 

Gaunt with grief:

Motionless:

Stilled, Silenced:

Cold December day:

Grey and bleak.

I could not move:

Stunned: Frozen in Time:

Unbelieving:

Damn it all!

Damn!

It!

All!

It was not my war

don’t you know?

They were not my people

don’t you see?

Do I protest too much?

Name engraved black marble slabs

rising from the earth sear into my soul.

Burning deep to feel the pain, of so many deaths, such futility.

Ball of fire flames my chest,

chills the marrow of my bones.

Subterranean edifice hurts me awake,

transforms deep memories

for my own kind.

Fellow Humans.

Americans,

Vietnamese,

All peoples

caught in the sinister web

of dark and deadly shadows

that lurk in all of us:

Hate, Greed and Power.

I circle the profanity of war,

nerve center of our world.

Grimly aware thought:

Our world must be transformed:

Our world must be changed:

And we must do it. Transforming ourselves

then others in swift urgency.

Else the memoirs

of our civilization

are no more than

Monuments To The Dead.

Our Dead:

Yours

And

Mine.

      Weaving

Let me share it –

This symphony of autumn color,

cascading melody from a sky

pastel grey and fiery red.

Descant to the dancing tones of

a painted forest

cooled by lush evergreens.

Sensual beauty,

rhapsody of forest and sunset sky

fused as a golden sheen.

Caught in a still lake

waiting with patience

Beyond time and space,

Waiting

to reflect this moment of

splendor –

Weaving.

Let me share it.

Autumn Sunset

 

Interview with The Australia Times – Part One

Interview with The Australia Times – Part One

  1. When did you begin writing poetry? What were the earliest influences?

In my teenage expedition to Sarawak, Borneo, with Voluntary Service Overseas, I kept a journal of the vivid surrounds and how I was feeling. From that time on I kept journals and scribbled poetry wherever I went. I eventually had trunks full of poems that reminded me of the experiences I went through, particularly in India.  My extensive shamanic training with incredible First Nations medicine people was also carefully logged. My notes were a sign post for me to always be authentic, even when it was awful and hard to re-read. I do my best to maintain that.  As a professor I wrote text books and scholarly papers, which had particular protocols that were somewhat stifling. When I started late on the writing craft – I had to re-learn how to write without sounding pompous, to be mindful of what the reader could take in. I also gave up on footnotes!

2.Tell us a little about your global travels and how they have impacted your writing, particularly your poetry.

My life as a global traveller certainly stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. From teenage volunteering in Borneo with Britain’s Peace Corps to being a yogi in India and a Zen teacher in Canada – expansion of mind was inescapable.

Ian in India

My challenging journey navigated shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. From this vast range of experience I found an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way and this was expressed in my poetry and books. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I went to great lengths to transform karma. My first book – Redemption – was written in 1975 and I wrote it as an extended prose poem. It became a lost manuscript as I did not know how to get published at that time. When I rediscovered it forty years later I could scarce believe my eyes. How could I write like this when I was a total mess? Anita Rizvi had this to say…. “Redemption is a riveting chronicle of one man’s journey through the stages of innocence, darkness, destruction and transformation.” She goes on to say, “What is so exquisite is the tenderness and honesty with which the author deals with the human condition . . . When Callum Mor’s journey moves him even closer to the abyss, the author refuses to ‘sanitize’ his experiences.”  It is important for me to remain true in telling the grittier and more difficult aspects of a poem or story. And also to touch the mystical elements that led to it being transposed to a written form.

In Trailing Sky Six Feathers for instance, readers were inspired by my intention to transcend patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to a Muse who refused to give up on me. Karma is reversed; the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

3. How did your hermitage in Quebec and your relationship with your pet wolf enable you to reflect on the natural world?

When I first met Wolfie he was running free in the interior mountains of British Columbia. He immediately claimed ownership — I was his! After showing me his mountain habitat and uncannily appearing every time I visited a cabin in the Mt. Currie area of British Columbia, he chose to live with me in my home in Gatineau Park forest in Quebec. I made the mistake of trying to train him – until I realized how totally redundant this was. Wolfie could read my mind and would always respond. Obedience training was not part of the deal. His presence of gentleness, patience and above all, his loving heart, were felt by everyone he encountered. The companionship with this wonderful creature was one of protection – he was protecting me. He tuned into energies I had no experience of and gently educated me in the way of the forest. He died when I was in Arizona participating in a sweat lodge and he tuned into me. He placed himself in the way of energies that could harm me and paid the ultimate price. The shaman conducting the ceremony after learning this news said, “He will always be with you in spirit form – protecting you still.”

Wolfie in Kingsmere

4. Through your anthropological studies you must have come across many early writings which may have included poetry. Does poetry play a significant role in cultural development?

In my career as an anthropologist I was fortunate to encounter many Native American story tellers across North America – Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few.  Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I now recreate this impact in my blog “Awakening – Spiritual Relationship with Self and Mother Earth” on WordPress – a great place to tell stories with an authentic voice. www.ianprattis.wordpress.com

I would say that without poetry cultures implode.  Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary aboriginal medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice.  Through their mentoring, I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness, and re-write some of Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. This shows up in my writing.

5. You have studied a number of spiritual teachings. What insights has this brought to your writing?

I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness, so that I can be an authentic vehicle to chart a path for spiritual friends. This is through the creation of a meditation centre – Pine Gate Mindfulness Community – and an activist spiritual vehicle – Friends for Peace Canada. Both based in Ottawa. Slowly but inevitably these vehicles are helping to change the nature of the city of Ottawa – thanks to the many groups and organizations (over fifty) that are part of a loose coalition for change.  If I did not do this, then I could not write the way I do. My 2014 books are screenplay-worthy epic tales that weave together seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X, feminists, students and academics alike. Global citizens are staring into the abyss – yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently.

We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. That is the prod and direction of my poems and books. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform. My writing caps my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. All of this funnels back into my writing.

Brand Jpeg

 

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Hero’s Journey into the Future

My latest book New Planet, New World is the final bookend of a trilogy – “Chronicles of Awakening.” Redemption is the first book in this trilogy that has Trailing Sky Six Feathers as the second book. The final tome of this trilogy takes characters from the prior two books, placing them in the future on a new planet. From the 18th century, Rising Moon (daughter of Trailing Sky) is hurled by shamanic means to the new planet. From the 21st century Tom and Sian Hagen with their daughter Catriona get there from a failing spaceship. Life on the new planet permits a beginning anew for our species – a communal Hero’s Journey to reconstruct a society based on ecology, sharing and caring. I consider Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey as an underlying template for all great books and do my best to weave its threads through my writing.

But there are calamities to endure – a brutal abduction and rape, a jihadist cell hi-jacking a spaceship to take over the new planet, the desperate loss of pioneers in an exploding spaceship. I do not shy away from the reason for finding a new planet. I place in the mouth of Dr. Tom Hagen a speech to the UN that I would certainly like to give from the future. It is about the willful ignorance displayed by corporate and government cabals invested in the carbon/oil complex, while eco militias murder in the streets and social disorder is a norm.

The First chapter is a lyrical and dangerous meeting on the new planet between Catriona and Rising Moon. Instead of killing one another they become blood sisters. The Second chapter is quite dark about the desolation of Planet Earth, the location of a new planet and establishment of stations on Mars and Jupiter. Chapter Three is also dark about the perilous destruction of the spaceship and safe landing of some of the pioneer travellers. Chapter Four is a love story and the search for the children ejected in escape modules from the spaceship. Chapter Five provides vision for community building. Chapter Six is dark with the tragedy of rape yet permits the human spirit to prevail. Chapter Seven documents the flourishing communities established – eco-villages and Wisdom of the Elders. The battle with jihadists in Chapter Eight is not for the squeamish. It ushers in the end of innocence and the beginning of wisdom. Chapter Nine returns to a tender love story, nature and shamanic preparation while the final Chapter Ten muses philosophically about human survival anywhere. The end game is a philosophy to endure and not repeat the mistakes of the prior civilization on Planet Earth.

The reader will find in this futuristic novel three distinct love stories, the establishment of ethical settlements with a paradigm that echoes Tolstoy’s “people of the twenty fifth century” and wise resolution for severe setbacks. The novel moves from dark to liberating chapters with action, fear, resolution, death, rape, bravery, exile in this futuristic opportunity for humanity. This action packed book ends on a philosophical note concerning our place in the centuries to come.

Interplanetary

Ian Prattis is an award winning author of fourteen books. Recent awards include Gold for fiction at the 2015 Florida Book Festival, 2015 Quill Award from Focus on Women Magazine and Silver for Environment and Conservation from the 2014 Living Now Literary Awards. Julia Ann Charpentier says his: “admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity.” Of his Gold for Redemption Anita Rizvi calls it “a riveting novel chronicling one man’s journey through the stages of innocence, darkness, destruction and transformation.” She goes on to say, “What is so exquisite is the tenderness and honesty with which the author deals with the human condition . . . he refuses to sanitize experience.” He depicts the stations of a personal Calvary that ultimately leads to Redemption.

His poetry, memoirs, fiction, articles, blogs and podcasts appear in a wide range of venues.

2015 TIFERET INTERVIEW with MELISSA STUDDARD: Part Two

Tiferet Journal is at the nexus of literature and spirituality. It publishes high-quality poetry, prose and art that further meaningful dialogue about what it is to be human and conscious in today’s often divisive world. The entire interview is in Tiferet Journal, Summer 2015 http://tiferetjournal.com/  

 

MS: Relationships with self, others, and environment are of extreme importance in Redemption. Can you tell our readers more about the relevance of relationship to Redemption 

IP: The book is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and human nature. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world, and its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama. Relationships with people, land and sea skilfully brings this drama out. The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor – the epic main character – but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material; their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional moments. The story arcs of other characters in the novel offer particularly beautiful and interesting counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. Their hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a realistic tapestry of human existence.

Redemption front cover

The narrative’s tone is generally quiet and introspective, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. Callum Mor and his people face many conflicts throughout the story, from poverty, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, and battles with nature itself – to sexual assault and violent physical confrontation. All of this provides the tapestry for the deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith to carefully unfold.

MS: Anita Rizvi calls Redemption “a riveting novel chronicling one man’s journey through the stages of innocence, darkness, destruction and transformation.” She goes on to say, “What is so exquisite about this novel is the tenderness and honesty with which the author deals with the human condition . . . When Callum Mor’s journey moves him even closer to the abyss, the author refuses to ‘sanitize’ his experiences.”  Why was it important to you to remain true in your telling of the grittier and more difficult aspects of the story? 

IP: My preference is always to be authentic in my writing.  I do not always achieve this but in Redemption I am happy to convey that the switch is Full On. The grit, hardship and suffering are essential counterpoints to the manner in which Callum Mor stepped out of his self-destruction into a glimmer of awakening. The severity of the darkness he allowed to envelop himself actually punctuates his steps out of it. In Buddhism there is a profound one liner – “No Mud, No Lotus.” There was lots of Mud in Callum Mor’s evolution to awakening.

 

MS: You’ve had an absolutely fascinating life. In what ways has your life prepared you to become the writer you are today?

IP: My life as a global traveler certainly stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. From teenage volunteering in Borneo with Britain’s Peace Corps to being a yogi in India and a Zen teacher in Canada – expansion of mind was inescapable. My challenging journey navigates shamanic healing of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. From this vast range of experience I found an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I went to great lengths to transform karma. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering. I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and re-write some of Carl Jung’s psychology. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious.

In Trailing Sky Six Feathers for instance, readers may be inspired as they watch my intention and strength of purpose to transcend patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the Muse who refused to give up. Karma is reversed; the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past. These books cap my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed.

MS: One of the things we’re interested in at Tiferet is how spirituality and art can inform each other and serve similar roles for the individual and humanity as a whole. What would you consider to be the core tenets of your own spiritual practice, and how does your spiritual practice relate to your writing practice? Are there things you have learned from one practice that apply to the other?

IP: I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness, so that I can be an authentic vehicle to chart a path for spiritual friends. This is through the creation of a meditation center – Pine Gate Mindfulness Community – and an activist spiritual vehicle – Friends for Peace Canada. Both based in Ottawa. Slowly but inevitably these vehicles are helping to change the nature of our northern city – thanks to the many groups and organizations (over 50) that are part of a loose coalition for change.  If I did not do this, then I could not write the way I do.

My 2014 books are screenplay-worthy epic tales that weave together seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, generation X, feminists, students and academics alike. Global citizens are staring into the abyss –yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Rumi’s wise words are cogent: “Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.”  We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform.

Available at www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com   Autographed Book – Order Through: www.ianprattis.com

Melissa Studdard

Of her debut poetry collection, I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, Robert Pinsky writes, “This poet’s ardent, winning ebullience echoes that of God…” and Cate Marvin says her work “would have no doubt pleased Neruda’s taste for the alchemic impurity of poetry.” Melissa Studdard is an editor for American Microreviews and Interviews, hosts Tiferet Talk radio, and judges the monthly Goodreads ¡Poetry! Group contest. She is also the author of the novel, Six Weeks to Yehidah, and a collection of interviews, The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award and the International Book Award. Her poetry, fiction, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide range of publications, including Pleiades, Poets & Writers, Tupelo Quarterly, Psychology Today, and Connecticut Review. Learn more at www.melissastuddard.com

Melissa Studdard

 

Sacred Kiva and the Transfer Particle

This excerpt is from Chapter Two of the book “New Planet, New World.” Astrophysicist meets Hopi Sacred Keepers to activate the Transfer Particle that connects universes.  Just the last chapter to write – Chapter Eight, a philosophical musing on humanity’s survival anywhere.

As he looked into the eyes of Manny’s grandmother, Tom sank down to his knees before her and wept, just as Manny had wept on the journey there. She calmly held out her hands to him and stood before him. He looked into the eyes of wisdom, beauty and power. She spoke to him in perfect English. “I see that Manny has instructed you well. “ She chuckled with that deep guttural sound he had heard before. “You have the new planet’s location for me.” Tom nodded – there was nothing he could say, so full was he of her presence. She understood. “We know what is to be created here and treat it as an honor to be part of it. It will be your task to place it in order on the new planet. I will introduce you to the other Keepers.” Tom was included in a circle of the most magnificent people he had ever met. The tears continued to flow down his face. “This is good,” remarked one of the Keepers. Tom understood what they had committed to and fully realized that it deepened his own commitment.

Boynton settlement cave

“Dr. Hagen, do not lament that we will not return from the kiva,” she said. “I reassure you that this is what we want. We are ready to move on and become part of the Sky People. That is something all four of us have yearned for. We gladly reach for that transformation. We cannot invite you into the kiva. You must stay outside, next to where the North stone is placed.  I will show you.” She took Tom by the hand and pointed out the chair placed right above the North stone in the subterranean chamber. Her smile was quite amusing. “We will be inside with the ceremony for the rest of the day. It will be completed by morning. You are to stay at this location throughout. Our people will bring you water and sustenance. At daybreak Manny will come out by the ladder. There is a flat stone that fits the top of the kiva perfectly. You and Manny will place that over the entrance, as this kiva becomes our tomb.  Though it is only for our dead bodies – we will have gone elsewhere by dawn.” She looked deeply into Tom’s eyes and he felt he was looking into universe after universe. “I have one request for you.  Do not ask Manny what took place in the ceremonial chamber of the kiva. When the time is right he will inform you. Until that time, please resist all curiosity about the Transfer Particle. The fact that you land safely on the new planet in the next galaxy is proof enough.”

He allowed his scientific mind to recede and felt deeply in his body the unification of universes. Tom did not see the energy from the ceremonial chamber travelling into space but opened up to the reality of something he had no prior knowledge of. The taste of the burning fire pit at the center of the medicine wheel was pungent in his mouth. Although the night was cold, beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and ran down his cheeks, splashing onto his buttoned shirt. He was starkly aware that the Sacred Keeper of the Sky People was directly below him. Manny’s grandmother had given him specific instructions and he kept to them as though they were sacred vows. He was in unfamiliar territory, which became more and more unusual as the night proceeded. Yet he was prepared to make that leap of faith to completely trust the elderly Hopi elders who were offering their lives.

Deep sobs arose in his chest and he cried uncontrollably several times during that long dark night. The first light of dawn on the desert horizon was not so much a relief, just a marker of the most significant act of his life. The morning breeze raised a brief sand storm. He gripped the wood of the sturdy chair upon which he sat. He felt the knots of the hard wood with his two hands. This grounded him deeply to the experience of the four Sacred Keepers who he knew were now dead. Humbled by their nobility he waited patiently. He made it so through the night until he heard Manny’s steps on the ladder and was there to embrace him as he climbed out of the sacred kiva. His new friend looked gaunt and bereft, yet had a steely determination in his eyes. Between them they lifted the stone slab and placed it on the top opening of the kiva. They sat at the North apex where Tom had been stationed, very quiet, full of wonder and not a little grief. Breakfast was brought over to them by the other elders remaining in the pueblo, who knew what had taken place. The coffee was good, as were the corn tortillas. There was no need for any conversation or analysis. Tom and Manny entered the helicopter which quickly ferried them to Phoenix International airport. It was a silent journey. Both men knew they had been radically changed.

Interplanetary

A WRITER’S DREAM

It happens – that moment when unexpectedly your writing receives glowing confirmation. Luckily I have had a taste of that. At a writer’s retreat recently, the facilitator who had read my book Redemption spoke of it that it was not so much a read but as if she were listening to music. The cadence of the writing struck her forcibly. I often describe Redemption as an extended prose poem but like her musical note more.

Galillee 2

When a reviewer hits the mark it is a big wow when they seem to read your mind and intention. It makes up for all the misunderstandings. Julia Ann Charpentier in her review must have been sitting in my mind. She describes Redemption, “An admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity……. In this descriptive passage, the devastated mood surrounding Callum Mor’s father can be seen and felt in contrast to the harsh elements of nature: “In the wake of the gale, the day had produced a hazy sunlight that made the reeds in the marsh glimmer, but the unexpected heat in the day could do nothing to warm the cold, vacant, deadness that now enveloped Andrew….  In a later scene, winter emerges as a villainous character: “The wind from the north soughed softly along the shore but froze any man it gripped. The cold stole into every door and numbed the hands and minds of those unprepared for it.” The novel falls into a vague realm of timeless storytelling. This does not detract from the literary quality.”

Redemption front cover

A close friend weighed in with something familiar. Lucille Hildesheim, International Harp Artiste

“What marks a great work of art is that it touches the heart and soul. Redemption touched mine very deeply. It is so vividly descriptive of both scenery and people, drawing you into the life of Callum Mor, making you cry for him, cheer for him, and wishing you could continue on his journey with him. It is a book to be read over and over again, from which to take away life lessons and inspiration for our own personal journey. This is a book to share with those who touch your life.”

A wonderful cap to this musing was recent when I went to send some books through the Post Office. The young woman at the counter had posted many of the packages of books I had sent to competitions and I always gave a copy to her to read. She gave me a big hug and told me that the most recent book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers – had changed her life. This is really why I write.  I told her that the final bookend of the trilogy takes characters from the two books she has read and places them on a new planet in the immediate future. She cannot wait for that one. My expeditions to the post office are a highlight for me these days.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

15 Seconds on YouTube and Press Release

My book “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” in 15 seconds on YouTube. Please share. Thank you.

http://youtu.be/eJeEC6mySFI

Press Release for Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse

Spiritual awakening is needed to ensure survival, author says. Ian Prattis shares personal journey, advocates about spiritual awakening, empowerment in new book: Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse.

OTTAWA – Climate change, ecosystem collapse and anarchy are just some of the current issues that propelled author Ian Prattis to widen his advocacy of empowerment and change. “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” is Prattis’ way of shedding light on issues that affect and will continue to affect the generations to come. Sharing his challenging journey and personal transformation, Prattis illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. “The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns,” says Prattis, “We can and must transform.”

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

Prattis further believes that global culture needs to awaken spiritually if humanity wants to ensure survival. For him, “the world has become an unpredictable beast that people fail to work with intelligently; and humanity has to take back control of themselves, for this is a spiritual matter.” Insightful and illuminating, this story follows the exciting journey of a hero which is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. “Trailing Sky Six Feathers” shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including the author’s own.

Available at www.Amazon.com  and www.BarnesandNoble.com   Signed Book – Order Through: http://www.ianprattis.com

Callum Mor’s Ocean

Excerpt from Chapter One of Redemption – Gold Medal Winner for Fiction at 2015 Florida Book Festival                                                         

“Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “Crabs.” “Lobster.” “Crabs.” “No Lobster.” Like a medieval incantation old Angus sang out the greeting as the lobster creels came over the gunwale one by one.  “Lobster.” “No Lobster.” “Crab.” Uttered with exact same pitch and feeling he intoned a greeting to the creature trapped within. His huge hands deftly unlaced the latticed side of the creel and with a slow rhythm he methodically passed the lobsters to the boy standing on the deck of the boat.

The youngster watched in silence, transferring the lobsters from the gnarled hands of Angus to a large wooden box covered with a wet sack. He watched in fascination as Angus tore claws, shell and legs from the living crab to place the breast meat in the creel as bait along with half a salt mackerel. When the whole fleet of twenty creels were stacked on the deck, the skipper of the boat, Michael Martin, shouted above the noise of the engine to Angus that they were moving. This was the fourth fleet of twenty creels to be serviced that September morning. Michael took the boat out to sea then cut the engine. The craft moved up and down with the swell of the sea. The remaining fleets of lobster creels could wait while their leisurely lunch was consumed. Michael’s gaze on the boy was fond. Angus and Michael talked about their catch and where the remaining fleets of creels would be placed. Callum Mor sat quietly looking at them.

He had shared their sandwiches, supped from Angus’s large mug and listened to their talk of the sea. His left hand was ugly and red with two large welts suffered from lobster nips. He had borne the pain in silence but his tears had been noticed by the two men. They had said nothing but at their lunch made room for him and treated him with a gentle courtesy, which he shyly treasured. Angus sat on a fish box filling his pipe, his pale blue eyes rarely away from the sea that sustained him. His weathered features and great broad shoulders and hands a contrast to the slight eager faced boy beside him. Michael started the engine and the boat swung south as they approached an inlet close to Mieray Island. In the shadow of the soaring cliffs Angus’s incantations, sung softly under his breath, seemed almost like a prayer. Stretching sheer from the sea for nine hundred feet, the cliffs drew their eyes. It was as if to redefine their humanness, that a fleet of creels was set in a channel that cut through the soaring grandeur of the cliffs. An act of impudence, almost, to snatch a morsel from the feet of the gods. Angus deposited the baited creels into the sea, taking bearings from rocks he had brushed against countless times.

All three blinked as they emerged from the grotto and the September sunlight brought them back to life. As Michael piloted the boat northwards their eyes would frequently travel back to the darkness they had with impunity dared, until the cliffs were lost from sight. Angus and Callum Mor busied themselves with securing the catch in wooden boxes that would be floated at a mooring in the bay. The boy’s arms and back ached from the lifting of heavy creels and his hand throbbed painfully. Angus put him in the wheelhouse with Michael. The noise of the engine made conversation impossible yet Michael shouted volubly above the roar and Callum Mor could not hear. His replies were similarly incomprehensible. Words strung together had no meaning above the noise but the osmosis of the sea and the beauty of the day united them in a way that did not require words. They enjoyed their mutually unintelligible conversation all the way back to the pier.

Callum Mor was dispatched home with a large bag of crab claws. He walked along the pier road and up the brae that eventually lead to his father’s croft. He moved the bag of crab claws from arm to arm as its weight told on his small, tired muscles. His sister met him at the rise of the brae, her bright red skirt a counterpoint to the green jersey of Callum Mor. The two colours, his sister now helping in the carrying of the bag, were soon lost to sight, as Michael and Angus returned to their own island.

Redemption front cover

Go to http://www.ianprattis.com to order a copy.